3 Steps to Becoming a More Trusted Marketing or Agency Leader

A photo of one person leading hundreds

By Drew McLellan, the CEO of Agency Management Institute

I know a few amazing leaders, and they all share a commonality: They’re trusted 100%.

Trust is a key ingredient in business, though it’s hard to gain. If you’re not trustworthy, no one on your marketing team or at your agency will follow you. Sure, they’ll do what you say, but they won’t have confidence in you. They might also be hesitant to share ideas. Speaking up involves taking a risk, and the risk isn’t worth it if team members aren’t sure how a leader will respond.

The bottom line is that you can’t achieve success if you don’t foster a high-trust team. When people work in environments where they mistrust or fear leaders, they react based on the possibility of punishment. They’re stifled, not motivated. Over time, their commitment and enthusiasm will wane. If you want to retain high performers amid the current labor market shake-up, you need to assess your trust factor.

Evaluating Trust Levels Through Recent Years

The pandemic forced leaders to focus on trust and assure their teams in a way they hadn’t before. According to a Culture Amp survey administered between 2019 and 2021, an increasing number of employees reported being more informed about business decisions and feeling like they’re important to their company’s overall success. Now that the world is moving into the next normal, you have to maintain this same level of trust.

Unfortunately, there’s a trust gap building between leaders and teams. PwC found that 84% of leaders believe employee trust is high, while only 69% of employees say the same. If you haven’t been facilitating open communication or fostering better connections among workers, you might be lagging. So, what are some signs that you need to build more trust?

To start, your team members might not take ownership. Marketers and agency members who aren’t invited to co-create might be fearful of stepping up and taking responsibility. Secondly, you might see a lack of innovation. Improvements grind to a halt when the wheels of experimentation stop turning. Finally, communication becomes stilted and siloed. No matter what you say, people resist sharing because they’re worried about potential repercussions.

How to Build More Trust With Your Team

If you’re experiencing any of the signs previously mentioned, you need to figure out a better way to lead your marketing team or agency. Take these steps to start thinking and acting like a trusted leader:

1. Believe in your team’s collective wisdom.

As a marketing or agency leader, you make a lot of decisions. But relying solely on your own knowledge won’t get you as far as utilizing team members’ collective wisdom. Stop micromanaging and let your team take you to new heights by adopting a full-scale collaboration mentality. Additionally, you should trust everyone to do their job unless they prove they can’t.

2. Teach new hires about trust.

Many new marketers or agency employees might have “escaped” from low-trust organizations. Show them that you mean it when you say you’re a high-trust organization with high-trust leaders. Match new hires with mentors who can assure them that the trust-fueled interactions they experience are authentic. In time, they’ll contribute to your desired culture.

3. Trust-proof your corporate values.

Values create attitudes that beget behaviors. So, construct a high-trust values statement and promote those values so they inform everyday practices. I know of organizations that leverage their values to improve trust by setting up values committees, talking about their values, and living their values. Guess what? The team members at those companies trust their leaders.

Are you a trusted leader? Take the time to find out so you can drive your department’s or agency’s future success.

About the Author

Drew McLellan is the CEO of Agency Management Institute, serving 250-plus agencies to help the owners build profitable agencies that evolve and scale.